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Crafty kids to take over Casa de Nana this month

By Debbie Gardner PRIME Editor SPRINGFIELD -- Restaurant co-owner Jen Lindblad said the idea for Casa Kids Craft Nites, a March-long Monday night event at Casa de Nana, didn't originate with her, her husband Pete or their partner, Rob Ollari. It came from Lindblad's 12-year-old daughter, and it was prompted by what she was seeing the economy do to family budgets. "She has friends, and I have a lot of friends, who've been forced to pick and choose [their kid's activities]. They can't partake of as many things as they did," Lindblad said. "I've been talking to a lot of my regular customers and ... wow, it's affecting everybody." Lindblad said she and her daughter were talking about ways to offer something for kids at the restaurant to help fill in the gap when the idea of hosting craft nights came up. It sounded like a great idea, and before Lindblad knew it her husband, 21-year-old son and two members of her wait staff had offered to help organize and run the event. Open to kids from ages two to 12, Casa Kids Craft Nites will take place on March 9, 16, 23 and 30 from 5:30 to 7:15 p.m. The cost of admission is a food purchase for both the child and accompanying adult. "The way it will work is that any adult coming in with children buying any food purchase will have the opportunity, after dinner, to have their child[ren] come over to an area in the dining room and pick out a project," Lindblad said. "Parents are welcome to stay in the area [with their child] or spend a little 'alone time' at their table or in the bar while the child works on a craft." One stipulation, Lindblad said, is that parents must remain on the Casa de Nana property while their child is in the craft area. In addition, Lindblad said, all children will be signed in and out of the craft area and, if parents are not remaining in the area with their child, both the parent and child will receive wristbands labeled with matching numbers for identification purposes. "We will have projects by ages," Lindblad said. "We'll be making magnets, photo frames, sun catchers, [hand-colored] bandanas, [and] wooden kits that you glue together." Most of the crafts are Mexican-themed, but Lindblad said she does have some St. Patrick's Day-themed sun catchers for the first two weeks of the event. "We even have crafts for two-year-olds," she said. "I have Mexican-themed foam stickers [with tape on the back] and I've bought construction paper...even a two-year-old can come in and have fun." If the craft nights take off, Lindblad said she and her daughter plan to continue them on a once or twice a month basis. "We're using March as a big test month to see how it goes," she said. Founded in 1968 as Pete's Taco's, Casa de Nana is located at 995 Boston Rd. in Springfield. Dining room hours are Sunday, noon to 9 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m and Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. The menu is available online at www.casadenana.com. Major credit cards are accepted.

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